Within hours of Thursday morning’s health care ruling, students, health care providers, older citizens and members of the clergy gathered at the Capitol to share their joy. Calling it a historic victory, advocates said they were proud of the Supreme Court’s decision, which they say will change the lives of more than 400,000 people in Connecticut with no access to health care.

The group included Rabbi Joseph Ron Fish whose infant son needed cleft palate surgery. After the operation, the rabbi and his wife tried to buy a less costly insurance policy — the couple had been paying $30,000 a year for the family because of their son. That’s when Fish and his wife learned they were “prisoners of our insurance company because our son was described as having a pre-existing condition.”

The group also included Kashif Abdul-Karim, an imam of the Islamic Center of Greater Hartford and co-chairman of the Interfaith Fellowship for Universal Healthcare, which has been advocating for health reforms for more than sevene years.

“Hallelujah or alhumdulillah … just say whatever makes you feel good, but let’s be thankful for this decision of the Supreme Court to uphold the (Affordable Care Act),” he said at a news conference Thursday at the Legislative Office Building.

Standing before a crowd of health care providers, small business owners, clergy and others, he said, “Our highest ideas have been upheld. We must now move forward to implement the bold solutions of ACA that will benefit small business, uninsured and underinsured in the state.”

Terming the attack on ACA as “politically motivated,” Karim said that striking down the act would have increased the racial and ethnic gaps in the state.

Medicaid expansion

The Supreme Court has also affirmed the expansion of Medicaid to all individuals with incomes below 133 percent of the federal poverty level — if the state chooses to do so.

Since Connecticut is more committed to health care than many other states, the expansion of Medicaid is an opportunity it is seizing, said Jane McNichol, executive director of the Hartford-based Legal Assistance Resource Center.

“The expansion of Medicaid is particularly important to low-income residents of Connecticut” if the state is to maintain its current LIA program, she said, referring to the program that serves low-income adults without minor children. She said she was now confident about federal support for Medicaid.

Up to 155,000 additional Connecticut residents could have coverage under Medicaid following the expansion.

‘Greatest advance’ for women

Moreover, upholding the law has leveled the playing field for women. “The ACA is the greatest advance in women’s health in a generation,” said Judy Tabar, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, a group that serves more than more than 100,000 women in Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Under the law, providing numerous benefits for women’s health, including access to birth control and cancer screenings without co-pays, is mandatory. Women are guaranteed direct access to health care providers without referrals, ending discriminatory practices such as charging women higher premiums and denying coverage for pre-existing conditions.

“Being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition,” said Tabar. “The disparity will now be gone.”

David Pickus, president of the one of the state’s largest union of health care workers, said, “Today’s decision means that cancer survivors will have the health care they need, that young adults struggling to find that first good job that offers health insurance within their budgets can continue to have health coverage under their parents’ plan.”

Good news for retirees

Edward Coyle, director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, said this was a tremendous victory for seniors who can now better afford to see a doctor and fill a prescription.

“Instead of labeling the ACA as ObamaCare, we should now call it ‘Obama Cares’.”

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